The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania made a rather extreme decision today following the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage. The policy edict states that any arguments that gay marriage is wrong or unnatural will not be published. This statement essentially states that basic dissent about the gay marriage and homosexual morality is persona non grata.
While the SCOTUS got the same-sex ruling right, the Patriot-News got it so very, very wrong.
Dissent is one of the great things about our country. We can disagree, argue and fuss over seemingly ridiculous things because, well, we think they are important to the fabric of our country. Same-sex marriage is that sort of thing – it’s a silly debate because social conservatives was to treat the LGBT community as untouchable, sinful and straight-up evil, yet many of them wish to court their business and employment. This “separate but equal” attitude is exactly what the SCOTUS chose to address in its majority opinion. The words of Antonin Scalia and Chief Justice John Roberts read almost like oppositional-defiant children angry they didn’t get their way, and threatening to take their toys and go home. Of course, others chimed in, such as Atlanta radio commentator Erick Erickson and ultra-conservative Michael Savage went on the offensive almost immediately. Based on that, one would assume the print media would be quick to assume the role of keeper of the people’s voice.
The Patriot-News chose to do the very thing the media accuses conservative radio and news outlets of doing; namely, quashing dissent through draconian editorial policies. It’s understandable to edit hate speech so as not to allow slurs and junk science to be given legitimacy, but the idea of saying “if you don’t agree, don’t bother talking to us” is beyond idiotic – it’s plain anti-American. It flies in the face of not only the First Amendment, but also the very ideals our Founders risked their lives and honor to make reality. It is far wiser to allow bigots and hate mongers to spew their venom in a public forum; granted, a token amount of fools will follow their vile rhetoric like lemmings off the editorial cliff, but the vast majority of reasonable Americans will do they have always done – marginalize. To suppress this sort of dissent legitimizes these opinions, allowing them to co-opt this de facto censorship into a martyrdom of sorts. The Patriot-News’ policy is hardly befitting of its namesake; it would be more suited to the newsletter for Al Qaeda or ISIS, not the daily paper of one of America’s most historic state capitols.
Russia and China have du jure censorship of the press; America does not. In those countries, dissent is, at the very least, discouraged where, in our nation, it is celebrated even when it goes over the top. This is the very essence of what it is to be American. We would be wise to flood the Patriot-News editorial board with letters, emails and social media messages scolding them for this Putin-esque suppression of speech. We can, we must do better as a people – allow the fringe and their elements to make their case, and let the majority of sensible, reasonable people draw their own conclusions. If nothing else, it would prove the media isn’t entirely beholden to an ideological slant.